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An X-ray for plants

FluroSat is a data analytics platform for farmers which combines drone and satellite imagery with algorithms to assess plant health, diagnose problems and direct fertiliser application. The easiest way to imagine it is as an X-ray for plants. When taking an X-ray you can separate tissues from bones. When you take a camera that has very high spectral resolution, you can see every wavelength of light being separated into different layers of information, just like bones and muscles.The system highlights the hot spots which are inconsistent with the rest of the field. Farmers use this map to identify where crops need more fertiliser. www.Flurosat.com

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A paste that transforms deserts into fertile land

Scientists at Chongqing Jiaotong University in China have created a paste that’s made from the same substance found in plant cell walls. It’s made from a sodium carboxymethyl cellulose solution which creates support and protection for plants to grow. When the paste is combined with sand in an arid environment, it’s still able to keep water and nutrients for growth. A project in a northern China desert saw positive results in just six months. Flowers and vegetables were growing in nearly 500 acres of sand with the new technology, which essentially makes the land fertile in an extremely hot climate. http://www.distractify.com/news/2017/09/25/Z1OEAxp/china-researchers-deserts-fertile-land

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Drones that reforest after fires

BioCarbon says its two drones can plant 100,000 trees in a single day. It has started in Myanmar (previously called Burma) following successful trials in England and Australia, The drones work in three stages. Firstly the drones will map an area, analysing surface topology and composition, soil type and moisture, as well as possible physical obstructions. These analyses help decide which seeds should be planted. Secondly, the drones fly low, around 3-6 feet above the ground, planting new seeds every six seconds. The drones aren’t however just letting the seeds drift in the breeze. Each drone uses a pressurised can to shoot a biodegradable seed pod into the ground. Thirdly, after the mapping and planting, the drones monitor the area regularly. That data gets fed into the company’s machine learning algorithms, strengthening the mapping part of the plan. The process is ideal for reforesting after fires and planting trees in difficult to reach areas. https://www.biocarbonengineering.com/

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Cloud seeding to produce rain

Salt crystal flares are fired into the updraft of suitable clouds in the UAE in the hope that it will trigger more rainfall. The idea is that water vapour condenses around the salt, crystallises to form ice and then falls as rain. Only natural salts and no harmful chemicals are used in the seeding operations. The UAE established the Research Programme for Rain Enhancement in 2015 to look into ways to tackle water security. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/environment/six-cloud-seeding-missions-over-uae-in-past-two-days-1.693975

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Vertical farming

Vertical farming allows for food production using a tiny fraction of the water and land of conventional agriculture and without the use of pesticides or fertilisers. San Francisco-headquartered Plenty, with funding from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is building enormous indoor farms to grow fresh produce – mainly greens at this point – close to or inside cities where they will be eaten, which cuts down on the CO2 required to transport food. https://www.plenty.ag/

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They dump thousands of tons of orange peels in a field – 16 years later, the world is astonished by the result.

They dump thousands of tons of orange peels in a field – 16 years later, the world is astonished by the result.

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A simple new way to check healthy plant growth

A team of agricultural scientists working with the CSIRO has invented a digital device called the Chameleon, which offers a simple new way to measure how moist the soil is under crops. It only costs a few dollars to manufacture, making it a truly viable solution for farming communities around the world. Quite often the only way of currently knowing if crops are getting enough, or too much, water is to wait until the plant shows physical signs of stress. https://blog.csiro.au/good-karma-for-water-saving-chameleon/

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Rice grown in seawater

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Rice grown on a commercial scale in diluted seawater has, for the first time, made it into the rice bowls of ordinary Chinese people after a breakthrough in food production following more than four decades of efforts by farmers, researchers, government agencies and businesses. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2115250/chinese-scientists-put-rice-grown-seawater-nations-tables

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Natural solutions to climate change

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An international study has found that natural solutions to mitigate climate change, such as reforestation, could have the same effect globally as taking 1.5 billion cars off the road. The top three land management solutions identified – reforestation, avoiding further forest losses and improved forestry practices – could cost-effectively remove seven billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere annually. CSIRO collaborated with The Nature Conservancy and 14 other institutions on the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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